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One of the things I knew I would be doing when my parents came to visit Florida this year was seeing the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park which just happened to be during the blooming season!
This was the first thing we did on a sort of cloudy day. We didn’t really know what to expect in the park but it turned out to be pretty nice. It’s not your run of the mill state park full of hiking trails, though it does have a couple.
Instead, it’s a brick walkway that meanders through blooming camellias, azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias, and more. You get to see the Maclay House, a secret garden, and a reflection pool on this nice little stroll.
It felt a little bit like walking through the gardens of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, especially with all the pinkish red and white flowers.
We actually went to go see the Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway first and it was.. uhh.. not very exciting. I was expecting one of those classic Live Oak canopy roads where it’s basically a tree tunnel and I guess it kind of was but not in the way I thought it would be. It just felt like a regular road.
So we turned around and headed to the gardens. We got there and set off on the red brick road admiring the flowers along the way. Every now and then we would pass a tree or bush that just smelled so good and I would stick my head in it to enjoy the flowers.
There are a bunch of small dirt paths branching off from the main walkway but they all meet up. We went all the way to the house on the brick path then made our way back to the entrance on the dirt paths.
The house wasn’t open for tours but we sat on the bench in front of it enjoying the massive oaks and lake view for a bit before continuing on into the maze of paths through the gardens.
We actually ended up at, I think, the secret garden and reflection pool next which is a very popular spot for pictures. It was a cool little area but a little busy so we kept going once we got our quick pics.
The next feature was a small pond that looks like the springs around Florida. I don’t think it was natural, the bottom looked like concrete or something, but it was still pretty to see the water and flowers blooming around it.
The rest of the path out was just a nice meander through the woods with more delicious smelling flowers. While this isn’t a state park that I would have normally visited and may not be in a huge rush to visit again, I’m glad we went!
If you just want to go for a nice walk in Tallahassee, the garden is perfect for that and even if it isn’t bloom season, I’m sure it’s still a great walk and probably pretty quiet. If you’re in the area with some spare time, it’s a good way to spend a few hours.
Where is the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park in Tallahassee?
The Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park is in the north-slightly east part of Tallahassee, about 20 minutes from FSU (Florida State University.) It’s a nice easy drive through town.
How long do you need to see the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park?
If you’re just walking through the gardens and things are blooming, probably 2-3 hours. There’s actually quite a bit of path through there to enjoy and you can relax along the lake in the park or by the Maclay House for a bit. If you’re just doing a fast walk-through, maybe 1-2 hours.
You could easily spend a lot more time here if you just stroll through the garden or hike any of the other trails. We didn’t do the other trails, but I would probably skip it if that’s all you’re there for, is hiking. The gardens are the main draw and if you don’t see that there is barely a drive in the park to see anything.
When do the flowers bloom at the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park?
The gardens here bloom from January to April. This is the high season and the best time to visit (to see the flowers, of course.) And even though it was the high season, it wasn’t super busy. We did see enough other people but it wasn’t packed. I’m not sure if that’s how it usually is or if that was an early 2021 thing.
What kind of flowers can you see at the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park?
There aren’t as many types of flowers here as you would imagine, but there are a lot of what they have. You can see hundreds of these flowers blooming in the peak season as you walk along the brick walkway, through the secret garden, and to the reflection pool.
- Lots of other trees
What else is there to do at Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park?
While the gardens are the main draw in the park, there are other things to do there if you want to spend more than a couple of hours there.
You can either hike the five miles of multi-use trails in the Lake Overstreet area or enjoy the Big Pine and Boy Scout Nature Trails. The Big Pine and Boy Scout trails can each be done in less than an hour.
Hiking in the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park is pretty minimal so I wouldn’t make this the goal of the visit, but it’s a good addition to the garden walk, as is everything else on this list.
Florida is such a great place for Geocaching and this park is no different. Explore the gardens and hiking trails while doing some Geocaching along the way.
Visit the Maclay House
As long as it’s open, you can do a tour of the Maclay House to learn about the history of the park, the gardens, and the house itself. The house is decorated as it would have been in 1909 when it was built.
If you want to get out on Lake Hall, you can rent one of the few kayaks in the park or bring your own kayak/canoe/paddleboard/small boat to get on the water. No watercraft with a motor is allowed and the shoreline is all private property, so be sure to respect that.
The Lake Overstreet part of the park has about five miles of biking trails for visitor use and you can bring your own bike or possibly rent one of the limited bikes available from the ranger booth. There are also three miles of designated bike trails on the Overstreet property.
Similar to biking in the park, horseback riding is allowed on the five miles of multi-use trails in the Lake Overstreet area of the park. There are not horses available to ride in the park, you would need to bring your own.
How much is the entrance fee for Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park open?
The fees are a little weird here. If you’re visiting during the blooming months, there is a park entrance fee and garden entrance fee.
- $4 for a single occupant vehicle (park entrance)
- $6 for 2-8 people in a vehicle (park entrance)
- $6 garden entry for adults during blooming months
- $3 entry for children during blooming months
When is the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park open?
The gardens are open from 8AM until sunset every day and the Maclay House Museum is open January to April (blooming months) from 9AM to 5PM every day. The house was closed when we were there, but it was January 2021.
What to bring to the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park?
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.
Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.
Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case.
Is the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park worth it?
If you like visiting gardens, yes. If you’re there during the blooming season, yes. If you can’t find anything else to do near Tallahassee, yes.
If you don’t like garden type things or want to do some hiking, not just a stroll through the woods, I would skip it. I would also skip it if it isn’t blooming season.
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Have you been to the Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park? What did you think of it? Do you want to go? What are your favorite gardens/botanical gardens to visit?